ARC Length for SMAW

smaw arc length

When you have just started learning different welding techniques, it is pretty common for people looking to jump into doing things that require years of training. Before getting into the complicated and fancy stuff, it is important for you to learn the basics, which involve both learning how to use the equipment and the basic techniques. Rushing through these lessons might make you feel that you have learned the technique, but it might affect you when you move on to more complicated stuff. It is extremely important to know the basics of anything that you learn. One of those basic requirements is to learn everything about the arcs, from the correct arc lengths, their characteristics, and how to maintain the perfect arc while welding.

To answer the main question in short, the arc length can vary depending on the current and voltage being used, but in general about 0.1-inch distance is taken as the base. Also keep in mind that there are majorly 2 ways of striking an arc, the tapping method, and the scratching method. Make sure that your arc is not too short or long otherwise it can result in bad quality welds.


Before we start talking about the correct arc length, let’s get to know what arc length is. Basically, it is the distance between the base metal and the electrode while welding. There are a lot of things on which arc distance depends, like arc stability, the weld current, and the concentricity of the part.

It is very important to maintain the correct arc distance and it is one of those skills which take months or even years to master. Controlling the arc forms one of the most crucial parts of learning how to weld.

While the arc distance can fluctuate depending on a lot of factors, the base is taken to be around 0.10 inches. Another good rule of thumb is to keep your arc length similar to the diameter of the electrode you are using.

Also check out this article about slag in welding.


When the electrode is held too close to the base metal the final weld will come out to be uneven and sometimes even feel like it has been dragged by the rod. The final weld will be weaker and will contain a lot more slag inclusions. Another effect of having a shorter arc length is that sometimes the electrode might get stuck to the base metal.

On the other hand, when the arc length is too long, one obvious effect is that the arc can keep going out and that breaks the flow of the weld. Long arcs also lead to flat and wide welds and they also create a ton of spatter. In most cases, it will also make the arc unstable which can become difficult to handle. The slag formed around the welded area will also become difficult to remove from the edges.


The first thing you should make sure is that your amperage settings for the electrode you are using are correct, wrong settings can make the process of maintaining and striking an arc much more difficult. Make sure your arc length is not varying too much from the diameter of your electrode. If your length becomes too short, the electrode will start sticking and when too long, it will start producing excess spatter and undercut.

Maintaining a good arc length needs a lot of practice, but some tips which can improve your game are:

  • Try resting your elbows on something for added support.  Keep in mind your safety while doing so.
  • This might not be an option for welds that are in awkward positions, so doing dry runs helps you to pick the best position.
  • You should keep the welding speed at a steady pace, not too slow or fast.
  • While striking the arc, use one hand on the electrode holder and the other hand on the electrode for more stability.


In case the welding current you are using is too low, the final weld may result in a narrow and tall bead with minimal penetration. A lot of people also find the arc difficult to strike and it is prone to straying towards one side of a joint as compared to the other.

The solution for that would be either to use a smaller electrode if you are welding thin material, or turn up the amperage.


Considering the fact that the arc is responsible for melting the metal and that too in such a short amount of time, it is no doubt that its temperature must be extremely high. If you are wondering what’s the exact temperature of the arc is, the answer depends. It depends on which area of the arc you are talking about; it also depends on the voltage and the current you are using. The thermal conductivity of the electrode being used also makes variations in the heat being produced.

The maximum temperature is usually found at the base of the arc, that is, the core or the axis of the electrode and it reduces the further you move away. There are also temperature variations at the ends of the arc, the arc initiation zone, and the end zone. In general, the temperature varies between 8000 and 50000 F.


Striking an arc is one of those techniques which takes months and years to practice and get right. There are mainly two ways of striking an arc, the scratching method, and the tapping method. The former method is usually preferred by beginners as it is easy to master and learn.

The scratching method involves you moving the electrode on the surface of the base metal as you are lighting a match, basically scratching the surface at an angle. When you see the arc is formed, get the electrode back up to its welding position.

The tapping method is very similar to its name, you basically have to tap the electrode for a fraction of a second on the base metal and withdraw it to create the arc. The reason why it is not preferred by beginners is the higher chance of the electrode sticking to the base metal.


I don’t think there is a definite answer to this question here. The final weld strength depends on a lot of factors like the electrode you are using and the kind of base metal you are working with. Usually, both techniques can provide a pretty strong and good final weld. Different scenarios can call for different techniques, for example, it can be really difficult to use arc welding on thinner metals because of the high arc temperature and MIG usually provides better options for that.

Generally, the requirements for MIG weld strength are 70000 psi while stick welding electrodes are starting from 60000 psi.


If you are using the wire welding technique, you can keep the gun pointed at an angle of 10-15 degrees in the direction of the push. While if you are stick welding, you can keep the angle between 20 – 30 degrees. On the other hand, if you are handling a fillet weld, you should keep a slightly larger angle.


As I mentioned in the paragraphs above, there are mainly two ways of doing this, the tapping method and the scratching method. You can give both a try and stick to something (no pun intended) which suits you, although usually, beginners use the scratching method.


To summarize everything, make sure you understand the importance of maintaining the perfect arc length, and don’t be discouraged if you are having problems in the beginning. It takes months and years to master the art so keep practicing. If you are having difficulties with the tapping method try moving to the scratching method in the beginning.

Keep in mind that that basic arc length is about 0.1 inches and varies accordingly depending on different factors. Never try to touch the arc with your bare hands as it can get incredibly hot so keep all the safety precautions before starting your weld.

Remember to practice, practice, practice, and eventually, you’ll get the hang of it.